Life As a Support Worker

Why we do it. -By Tony Flower

So, it’s a bitterly freezing February Monday morning and you’re stood in a field full of goats as the gale lashes sideways into your face, causing your eyes to stream and your nose to run. Your usual stylish footwear has been replaced by a pair of goatpooencrusted green wellies; and the extra layers, a futile attempt to keep the cold at bay, give you the appearance of Winnie the Pooh after a particularly excessive honey binge, though not quite as cute.  

No, the Beast from the East is not a rare breed of Norfolk cattle, but a sub-zero cold front that’s come all the way from Siberia, to zero in on the Green Dragon Eco Farm in rural Buckinghamshire, where you are working with a group of young people with special needs. You glance at the stoic young man by your side and enquire if he is OK. 

 “I’m alright, it’s the others,” comes his customary, jovial response.  

His friends laugh uproariously. They’ve heard the joke many times before, but that doesn’t matter. You notice your colleagues smiling in the face of adversity too and everyone gets on with shovelling what we’ve been asked to shovel. You shiver and question the wisdom of your choice to become a Support Worker at Talkback, rather than find something comfy in a warm office somewhere. You are informed that Green Dragon isn’t always like this; there are halcyon days of sunshine, warmth and fresh air too; honest.   

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had”, you tell yourself. And it is. Consider the palpable difference that you are helping to make. The lad who wouldn’t say a word, who now shares good-natured banter with his peers and asks questions; the young lady whose confidence has grown so much that she can lead a group to complete a task; the once reticent young man who now has the self-assurance to answer enquiries from members of the public. The list goes on and every one of your colleagues has a tale to tell of the positive transformation of individuals; the progressive changes as they develop through Independent Living and Skills for Life Groups, College Support and Work Experience.  

Whilst supporting some wonderful people to achieve their full potential, you can have lots of fun too. You get to overcome those inhibitions and make an arse of yourself in drama sessions; you rediscover long-defunct muscles by participation in sports activities; and you pass on your knowledge of cookery, household skills, finance, employability, relationships and tying shoelaces.  

Then there are the amazing colleagues you get to work with – an array of fascinating, caring, talented and diverse folks from all backgrounds, with one common aimto serve the best interests and wellbeing of those we support. You won’t get to meet a finer bunch of mavericks and mavens anywhere on Earth.  

So, who needs that comfy warm office when you can have all this? Be gone Beast from the East; go back from whence you came. You won’t defeat a Talkback Support Worker!!  

Written by Tony Flower